Dead Hook has finally arrived on Quest, and it’s come for your lives! It’s coming for your souls! It’s come for your $19.99 bucks, and, to be fair, it goes all out.
When Joy Way announced Dead Hook, our ears dutifully perked up in attention. Ever since we played Stride, it’s been hard to shake the conviction that Joy Way have their finger on the pulse when it comes to fantastic VR traversal. This was further cemented when we played the somewhat ill-fated Outlier on PCVR, a game that had great promise but eventually disappeared. An early beta of it was briefly made available on Quest, and from the ashes of that project, Dead Hook rose, much like a phoenix, if that phoenix was dual-wielding futuristic sci-fi weapons and blades and was drenched in the blood of its demonic enemies.
You’ve Got Me Hooked
The star of the show here, as with most Joy Way titles, is the fantastically fluid traversal system. You have two grapple hooks, one per hand, which you can shoot out with the A and X buttons. You can use both together or one at a time, and the physics work as you’d expect, making the swinging and the movement remarkably intuitive. You’ll get the hang of it straight away, pulling on the chains to propel yourself forward, relaxing them to swing, and anchoring one while letting go of the other to arc through the arenas. The movement is glorious.
Call Me Akimbo
Whereas the grapple hooks help give Dead Hook some of its uniqueness, the game is a shooter through and through. I can almost say, knowing full well that Doc hates these genre-describing shortcuts, that Dead Hook feels like somebody put Swarm and Doom into a blender, set it to ‘roguelike’, and watched as Dead Hook rose to its feet, powered by metal and vengeance. Dead Hook offers a decent variety of weapons, including semi-automatic pistols, rocket launchers, shotguns, and plasma guns, to name a few, all of which are upgradeable. Although they don’t have any alternative fire options and the upgrades mostly make them more powerful but not inherently different, the weapon models are good, the gunplay is satisfying, and the weapons each pack their own distinct punch.
Upon completing a level, you unlock a chest at its center containing either a weapon, a perk, or a buff. Here, Dead Hook is a bit sadistic since some levels contain only buffs, and you’re forced to pick whichever you think will be the least damaging.
Devil’s in the Details
The killing mechanics in Dead Hook have been tweaked to provide a magnificent murderous flow to the combat. Once you’ve weakened an enemy sufficiently, they glow white, showing their vulnerability. This is your chance to grapple straight into them, shredding them to pieces. This also happens in slow motion, giving you the chance to re-target your weapons onto the next victim, set them glowing to grapple into them, building up a chain of shoot, grapple, shatter, shoot, grapple, shoot, grapple, destroy when you can dash around the arena like a madman, leaving disembodied enemies in your wake.
You also have blades that are set into your arms, and once you’ve built up enough kills, those can be unleashed, allowing you to cross your arms while targeting enemies and sending you flying and slashing into them. Again, this allows for a chain of kills and always feels rewarding.
Dressed for Death
Dead Hook‘s visuals aren’t mind-blowing, but they are appealing. It boasts a graphical style that suits the theme, works well for Quest, and, more importantly, allows the game to operate at a breakneck pace, never once stuttering or juddering during the intense action. The environments are good-looking, and they get better as you get farther in, but their design does more for the game than their looks, allowing for real three-dimensional maneuvering, traversal, and combat.
Bang Your Head
Had the review copy of Dead Hook that we got before launch not included a glitch that stopped the audio at some point during a certain level, I might not have appreciated just how much of a role the game’s music played in driving the action and the player forward. Don’t worry; I was told by Joy Way that they’re aware of the glitch and that it’ll be fixed in a day-one patch. So chances are, you’ll never encounter it. The sound design of the game is generally great, but it’s the pumping soundtrack accompanying the action that sets the mood of the game and keeps you swinging and shredding.
Despite the incredible attention paid to the core mechanics, Dead Hook has some minor UI and UX issues that make it feel a bit unpolished. A typo here and there that I’m assured will be fixed, poor weapon upgrade animations, and text that sometimes overflows past the box it’s set in. None of these issues impact the gameplay at all, and all of them can easily be patched if they haven’t been already by the time you see this review.
The greatest weaknesses of the game are twofold: a lack of enemy variety and poor boss fights. The enemies are mostly the same across the first ten levels, and the enemies you meet, after you defeat the first boss, are mostly the same, with a couple of additions, except they’re stronger and colored differently. I wish it had more enemies, but again, although the variety is weak, you’ll be too busy shooting and slashing through to mind too much.
But the first boss battle, for example, is simply dull. The first boss isn’t nimble and has no real moves, and although the game describes them as having ‘multiple phases’, the phases don’t amount to much. The first boss is a huge bullet sponge, tedious but not exciting to fight, and hardly rewarding to witness or satisfying to fight or defeat.
Still, despite my desire for far better boss battles, a greater variety of enemies, and finer UI polish, Dead Hook is easy to recommend for action fans with robust VR legs who want some good old-fashioned mayhem with unique traversal and a few twists. It’s packed to the brim with adrenaline and is being offered at a very fair price. If this is your kind of game, you’ll have an absolute blast.
TLDR : Summary
Dead Hook is easy to recommend for action fans with robust VR legs who want some good old-fashioned mayhem with unique traversal and a few twists.